The All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Benue State, Barrister Emmanuel Jime, in this interview debunks allegations and claims that his relationship with Senator George Akume has gone sour. He also speaks on his preparedness to govern the state in 2019 if given the mandate. Excerpts:
“Daily Trust: Is it true that you are being sponsored by Miyetti Allah and will you repeal the anti open grazing law if you become Benue State governor in 2019?
Barrister Emmanuel Jime: We all know that when a lie is told severally, sometimes, if you are not careful, people tend to begin to believe it. But, it’s a terrible lie for anybody to say that I am being sponsored by Miyetti Allah though I have heard worse things before. I actually had been told that my mother is Fulani.
The truth is that those peddling such rumours know that they don’t have anything to actually run on for a second term. In civilized climes, re-elections are based on performance in office. Now, if you look around Benue in the last three and a half years, tell me what anybody can point to? In terms of development, is it water supply, security, road construction, infrastructure? I don’t even want to talk about salaries because, to me, payment of salaries isn’t an achievement.
When somebody deliberately wants to cover up his failure, and decides to focus on an area that is emotional, clear headed minds should start investigating the motive.
On the anti open grazing law, in 2011, when I was a member of the House of Representatives, I was one of the first National Assembly members from Benue to put forward the motion on the issue of Fulani and herdsmen invasion of Tiv land. The records are there and they are verifiable.
Now, if I was discussing Fulani invasion as far back as 2011, shouldn’t that make me one of the strongest advocates for any law that would be put in place to make sure that the Fulani are no longer killing our people? Why would I advocate for a solution and then turn around to work against it seven years later?. It’s simply illogical.
Let’s not also forget that when the anti open grazing bill was sent to the House of Assembly, it was an APC-controlled state House of Assembly. So, if you brand Jime or his party as a Miyetti Allah party or a person against the anti open grazing law, what were we doing with an APC controlled state assembly passing a law against Fulani invasion?
I find it funny when Governor Ortom gives the impression that he is being victimized for opposing Miyetti Allah. The truth of the matter is that Ortom is not the victim, it is the Benue people. To put himself forward as the victim does a lot of disservice to the memory of those who are fallen. I think he is dancing on the people’s graves by using anti open grazing to extract political sympathy.
DT: What is your reaction to the alleged sour relationship between you and Senator George Akume?
Jime: There’s nothing about the story that’s true. You have to bear in mind that we are in a political environment where stirring up controversies has become the favourable pastime of some people. If there isn’t controversy, a number of people would go back to their bedrooms hungry.
Now, I believe that for proper governance, it’s important that leaders carry others along – working together and drawing from each other’s experiences and getting advice where necessary. People forget so soon that Senator Akume was governor of this state for eight years and there must be something (in terms of advice) one can get from someone like him.
So, the relationship I enjoy with Senator Akume is one that is rooted in the fact that having been governor himself, it is important for me and indeed for anybody who aspires to leadership to accord him the respect he deserves and seek his advice and opinion where and when necessary.
I have had no cause to believe that Senator Akume does not mean well for the state. I have a very good relationship with him and those who wish that there should be friction between us should look for other things to do.
DT: What difference would you make if elected governor?
Jime: Let me say that first and foremost what I would bring to the governance of Benue State is the experience I have had in public service. I have served at different levels in our country and state in particular. I was member of the state House of Assembly, became Speaker and represented a portion of this state at the federal legislature for eight years. Currently I’m managing one of the most important parastatals of the federal government, the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA). All these have prepared me for this office. With all sense of modesty, I don’t see any of my predecessors with the same level of preparation both mentally and physically. For me, that is the starting point.
Secondly, not many of our leaders have the courage of their convictions. And I think that unless and until you have the courage of your convictions, there is going to be difficulty in how you handle governance. It means that you can easily get distracted. I am one who can be very focused in fighting for what I believe in.
Thirdly, you have to understand that being sincere in leadership is a very important ingredient. I have served in a number of places like I said earlier and in all of the places, I have kept faith with the people. During my stewardship, I have always done my best to be a true public servant of the people within the mandate that I have held. It’s not going to be any different now.
DT: How well have you used your position as MD of NEPZA to attract goodwill to Benue?
Jime: I think our people, especially back home, should be educated on what that organization is meant to do. The function of NEPZA is to grant licenses to individuals who wish to participate in the free trade zones. In my time as MD of NEPZA, we have licensed close to 20 private free trade zones. And because there hasn’t been one single application from Benue State, you simply will not just go and give it to someone who has not applied.
I believe that part of the problem is that most Benue business people don’t understand the advantages of participating in the free trade zones scheme.
When I went to NEPZA, federal government under President Buhari had a policy in place for the establishment of six new industrial parks in the six geopolitical zones in the country. At the time of my arrival, the location for all of the industrial zones had been chosen and Benue was not among them. Fortunately, I was able to use the opportunity of my being in that office to get Mr. President to include Makurdi as a free trade zone. That for me is a monumental achievement.
Secondly, as far as employment is concerned, some Benue indigenes have been employed in NEPZA. You will understand that employment in the federal civil service has to follow some procedures like federal character, budget office and so on. So I have been able to make sure that the slot of Benue people is not subverted.
DT: You were recently accused by the PDP-led government in the state of staging political rally at an IDP camp. What really happened?
Jime: The truth of the matter is that PDP is in panic mode. We didn’t go to the IDP camp for campaigns. We went to Daudu for the decamping ceremony of a foremost member of the PDP, Hon Stephen Tsav, and I think they should be worried about that. The last time I checked, all the IDPs have their voter’s cards. So, if I decided to go and meet them so they can vote for us to return them to their villages when we come into office, then I think it’s worth it.
The IDPs can only vote for us because they feel frustrated that this present administration hasn’t done enough for them. Anyway, we didn’t go to the IDP camp. When we left the venue of the defection that day, we stopped at a proper IDPs camp to give them some relief materials and encourage them as well. Instead of joining hands to see how these IDPs can return to their homes, a government that has totally failed them is now turning around to use them against a party that has taken the people’s security and welfare as priority.